Can Changes In Sleep Patterns Lead To A Higher Lung Cancer Risk?

Circadian rhythms impact nearly every aspect of human health and well-being, including hunger, metabolism, digestion, hormone levels, brain function, body temperature, and mood (per Riordan Clinic). Before electricity, people lived according to the cycles of the sun and moon, waking at sunrise and going to sleep when the sun set. Your internal clock still decides which physiological and behavioral functions are optimal during the day and which processes kick in at night. 

Your natural sleep patterns affect physical, mental, and emotional wellness, and the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science says disruptions to circadian rhythms can lead to low productivity, insomnia, mood disorders like depression, and chronic health conditions like diabetes. But can changes in sleep patterns lead to higher lung cancer risk? A new study links disruption of circadian rhythms with lung cancer (via Healthline). The 2022 study, published in Science Advances, found that people who experienced regular disruption of natural circadian sleep patterns had elevated levels of heat shock factor 1 (HSF1) — a gene that signals potential lung cancer development.

The study could help researchers develop lung cancer prevention drugs

The mouse study references other, previous studies that also associate disrupted sleep patterns with an elevated risk for lung cancer in both humans and animals. And the Sleep Foundation points to animal studies that have indicated sleep deprivation could increase "wear and tear" on cells, which could damage DNA and lead to the development of cancer. These studies, though, are far from definitive.

Other studies fail to show a link between sleep duration or quality with many types of cancer, including a 2014 study of 21,026 American doctors published in the Chinese Journal of Lung Cancer. This study looked at how many hours of sleep subjects reported in relation to the incidence of lung cancer among the cohorts. Results found no connection between sleep duration or sleep apnea and the risk of lung cancer. However, if a link between sleep interruption and lung cancer can be established in future human trials, the recent mouse study could help researchers develop early treatments to prevent lung cancer development.